SABATTUS — A Litchfield man was pulled out of his flaming pickup truck Tuesday afternoon moments before the vehicle exploded following a 5 p.m. crash at Fisher and Marsh roads.

Two police officers and a group of bystanders were credited with saving 28-year-old Jeffrey Brough by pulling him out of the truck after he crashed into a tree, nearly ripping the pickup in half.

“You see this stuff on TV,” said Jim Levesque, who helped free the victim, “but you never think it’s going to happen in your backyard.”

Levesque and Sabattus police Officer Ralph Destefano struggled to pull the man through the passenger side window of his truck as fire began devouring the GMC pickup.

Brough was unconscious and wearing his seat belt at the time, witnesses said. The first to reach him were unable to get him out through the driver’s side due to damage to the truck, police said.

Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Smith tried to help the others remove Brough from the wreck while fighting the fire with an extinguisher.

“The flames were right behind his head,” said 17-year-old Jake Levesque, Jim’s son.

Jake Levesque also used a fire extinguisher to fight flames around the injured man as the rescue efforts were under way. A Lewiston resident, Zachary Pomelow, used a garden hose from a nearby home to try keeping the flames at bay.

As Destefano, Smith and the older Levesque started pulling the victim from the truck, fuel from a ruptured gas tank exploded.

“That thing blew up while we were at the door,” Destefano said.

Witnesses said flames rose 10 feet above the truck as Brough was being rescued. They said he was saved with not much time to spare — a moment after he was pulled free, the truck was engulfed in flames.

Destefano, a 21-year veteran of police work, said he could not remember participating in a rescue that was so dramatic. Jim Levesque performed his heroics with four broken ribs from a previous and unrelated mishap.

Police believed Brough may have been trying to speed away from Deputy Smith in the moments before the crash. At about 4:40 p.m., Smith spotted an oncoming truck with the driver acting suspicious on Route 126, police said. The deputy checked the registration and learned that the owner of the vehicle had a suspended license. Police said Smith then turned around to stop the truck and last saw it being driven erratically as the driver turned onto Marsh Road.

By the time he caught up with the truck, the driver had already crashed.

It was unknown later Tuesday whether Brough was aware that an officer was following him. He was taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston by LifeFlight helicopter with broken bones and possible other injuries. He was listed in serious condition.

The crash remained under investigation Tuesday night. The truck was owned by a Wales man who had loaned it to Brough, police said. The owner said he was unaware that Brough had six active driver’s license suspensions.

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